It’s crunch time for vegetables at the Delaware State Fair

HARRINGTON — When the Delaware State Fair started Thursday, judges were already busy tying blue ribbons.

In the Dover Building on Thursday afternoon, where quilts, birdhouses, cakes and jams were on display, judges were busy scoping out the vegetables.

There were rows of squash and cucumbers, bright red tomatoes, peppers, bushels of sweet corn.

The weather always has a lot to do with the vegetables at the state fair, said Richard Bennett, the superintendent of the garden and vegetable department, while he made his way through the displays.

“If we get too much rain or not enough rain, the sun — the weather has a lot to do with it,” he said.

This year was marked by plenty of rain, he said. And rain is good for some vegetables, like cantaloupes, watermelon and cabbage.

But excessive rain can also lead to spreading of fungus disease.

Mr. Bennett said he didn’t see as much corn as he normally does — it rained so much that it wasn’t planted soon enough, he said.

“If there’s too much rain they can’t plant it,” he said.

“If there’s not enough rain it’s not going to grow.”

Judge Jay Windsor said there was a fine turn-out this year.

“It’s been a pretty decent year. We’ve had some rain, and some years, dry years, it’s hard to get much,” he said.

The rain was spotty in some places, he said, but in most areas it was just right.

Sometimes too much, Mr. Windsor agreed, is just as bad as not enough.

“A lot of vegetable gardens are irrigated … with irrigation, too much rain is only the problem you’ve got,” he said.

Mr. Windsor, who has been a judge for 25 years, said he looks for maturity and uniformity, and he checks to make sure the vegetables are fresh and that they are not too old or too young.

Depending on the vegetable, he’ll also evaluate its color and size.

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